Overview of Solar Panel Systems
With so much choice of Solar Panel Systems on the market, how do you know which system best suits your power usage?
Every year more and more options become available on the market. The technology behind solar systems continues to get better and better every year, however this can add complexity in determining what is the right system for you and your home. New questions like: should I install a battery? and should I install a system with a inverter that’s capable and installing batteries in the future?, should I oversize the system? and many more are common. We will endeavour to answer as many of the most common and give an understanding on how we can design the right system to serve your purpose.
There are three main reasons that people are interested in solar. These are economical, environmental and the principal of solar power.
When we talk about the financial side of solar, there is a fine line between installing a system that gives you the best return of investment (ROI) and installing a system that will minamise bills.
Both are very valid reasons to install solar and the most common question is what size is the right size system to serve our purpose.?This is not a one-size-fits-all as people have different reasons for installing solar.
It’s always good to look for a value option. Perhaps you are deciding between two system sizes: 3 kilowatts (kw) and 6.5 kw. The question needs to be asked – which of these two options will serve my purpose best?
We like to explain it this way, which of the following two options fits your scenario best?
If you’re looking at installing a solar system and you want to do your part for the environment, and reduce your bills moving forward. If you’re not 100% sure whether you’re going to be in your house in 2 to 7 years time, you see that it’s a good time to install solar, you wish to take advantage of the state incentives and you don’t want to over capitalise on the solar system. Then perhaps a 3kw system may suit your situation the best.
If you’re looking to install solar and you’re planning on living in the property for well in excess of 5 years (some clients even tell us that “they’ll be carrying me out in a box before I leave”). You want to reduce your bills as much as humanly possible not just now but for the future, you have that little bit extra money today to put towards the system and looking for a long-term investment. A 6 kw to 6.5 kw system may be the right system for yourself.
These are the two extremes for a domestic property but this gives you an idea of some of the factors to be consider. In Victoria the majority of retailers will only offer an export (power to be feed into the grid) of 5 kw on a single phase and any more that 6.5kW of panels will not be allowed whilst still claiming federal rebates. This part is a little complicated and our design team can discuss further. There is also other options including battery options. Once again this is easier to discuss in more detail with one of our designers.
To put some context behind the inverters – Over the last 10 years our team at Velocity Solar have replaced panels on a handful of houses but have number replaced more than 800 inverters in the same time frame. We believe that inverters are the most important part of the system. For this reason we only install top of the range inverters with a minimum 10 year warranty.
There are three styles of inverters to consider when looking at installing a solar system
Option 1: Grid Connected DC Solar System (Direct Current)
This is the most common inverter system. The inverter gathers the solar power from the panels and converts a DC power source into usable 230 volt supply for a domestic installation. If there is no specific reason to go for a different option this is the best value for money and practical solution. The inverter we would recommend is the Austrian owned and made Fronius Inverter. Fronius are a leading inverter manufacturer, well supported in Australia and as mentioned we would be selling with a 10 year warranty.
If you wish to add optimisation to these style systems – we would then offer a SolarEdge inverter which is an Israeli company. This system is a DC system but comes with optimisers that can be installed on a module level to give better production. Their system comes with a 12 year warranty and is a good solution where shading may occur or there are multiple roof orientations needed for panel installation.
Option 2: Grid connected AC Solar Systems
This system has a lot of added benefits on top of most standard inverters. These benefits include module level monitoring of each and every panel on the roof, and it comes with consumption monitoring built-in as standard. There is a lot more facility to design systems where limited roof space is available, and they give slightly better yield due to optimisation of individual panels rather than a multiple string of panels. An AC system is also a slightly safer system than a standard inverter.
We install a lot of these systems where you may find shading from other buildings, trees, chimneys and other obstructions.
Option 3: Hybrid Solutions
This is the newest area of solar inverters and the technology continues to be improved year in and year out. It is possible to install any inverter today and know that in the future AC coupled retrofit batteries will be able to be installed in conjunction with the solar system.
However using a hybrid inverter gives the client the ability to add a battery to their solution with minimal effort and additional cost in the future. They do this by having internal battery management systems which communicate directly to the batteries. Due to this functionality a hybrid inverter may cost and extra thousand dollars to $2,500 depending on the inverter. The Solaredge mentioned above has a hybrid inverter option and we also recommend other inverters such as the Redback hybrid inverter. As time moves on a lot of other options will hit the market and it is very important to get specialist advice when looking at a hybrid solution.
There are a few different options when looking at inverters and it is important to get the right advice before looking at which inverter to install. We only recommend ihigh quality inverters that will last.
When considering panels it can get a little bit more complicated, because there are many different options on the market and an associated sales pitch! The complicated part is digging through what is and is not relevant and making an informed decision on what is available and what will suit your purpose.
Tier 1 also very common term and in the past gave some sort of a surety that the panel manufacturer was a decent company. The criteria is not what it used to be but at least gives us a guide.
The price of solar panels can change considerably from one company to another and from one efficiency to another. The bottom end solar panel on the market is approximately 3 times cheaper than the top end panel manufacturer on the market. There are only a handful panel manufacturer on the market at the moment that offer a 25 year workmanship & manufacturing warranty, including LG, Sunpower, REC and Hyundai. These three companies are leading the way if design technology and warranties. Other premium quality companies include Winaico, Tindo Solar and Solaredge’s smart module.
From here there are a lot of other different options that have value for money. We like the Trina solar panel. Trina has been around for a very long time, and are older than 95% of all other manufacturers. They have been the largest producing solar manufacturer in the last eight to 10 years. There are some panels that will be below standard and we do not offer these options. If you are looking at other options that are not mentioned above, then please do your due diligence to make sure you have confidence in the panels.
Panels have different efficiencies. What this means is that for a standard footprint of a panel you may be installing a panel between the size of 330 Watts and up to 390 Watts on a residential property as of early 2021. The higher wattage panels allow for less panels to be required on a roof space, needless to say a 390 watt panel may cost more than a 250 watt panel, and it is still very important to note that the quality of the manufacturer is just as important as the efficiency of the panel itself.
When looking at solar panels there is a huge range, due diligence is definitely required to make sure you have a reputable brand, as the brand is just as important if not the most important part of guaranteeing a panel and production for many years to come. The industry standard is for a panel to still produce 80% of its initial yield 25 years after it’s installed therefore stating and expectation of at least 25 years on your roof without faulting.
In conclusion, there are a lot of options when looking at the three major factors mentioned above. Sizing for economical and environmental reasons, inverters for functionality and reliability reasons and panels for longevity reasons. This is an overview and hopefully helpful, and our team at Velocity Solar have dedicated designers to make sure that each and every client gets the ideal solution that will serve their purpose.
We’re here to help you,
which circumstance best suits your scenario.
which circumstance best suits your scenario.